ORYA baseball president planning to sue Durham over 'beaning' incident
By KIMBERLEY HAAS Union Leader Correspondent
After a spring of controversy for Oyster River Youth Association baseball due to an alleged "beaning" threat, three men have raised legal concerns regarding their reputations. (File photo by Kimberley Haas)
Correction: Due to an editing error, Durham Town Attorney Laura Spector-Morgan's response to settlement offers was incorrectly stated in a prior version of this story. Durham has no plans to settle with some of the complainants. The corrected story follows.
DURHAM — The president of Oyster River Youth Association Baseball is planning to sue the town of Durham claiming damages to his reputation stemming from a much-publicized comment by a now-dismissed coach who threatened to have an 11-year-old girl “beaned” in the head with a baseball if she was placed on his team.
John Gill was one of the people at Libby’s Bar & Grill on Main Street in Durham when coach Jeff Robar allegedly said he would have another child “bean” the girl if she was placed on his team.
The alleged threat was made during a draft meeting March 21.
The girl’s father, school board member Dan Klein, submitted a complaint to the chairman of ORYA, Ben Genes, and then shared that complaint with local officials on the Seacoast.
It was obtained via request by news outlets and the story spread rapidly in April, even catching the attention of Major League Baseball.
Robar was suspended from coaching on April 9 and dismissed on April 19.
Alfred Catalfo, Gill’s attorney, claims that since his name was attached to the allegation as a person “complicit in the threatening of a child” Gill and his family have been the subject of harassment, humiliation and threats.
“This has been very difficult for Mr. Gill and his family,” Catalfo said Thursday.
Catalfo said the claim became more damaging to his client as the story spread and became viewed as a sexist act to forcibly remove a girl from a boys’ baseball team. Robar’s statement that he would have another child “bean her right in the ear hole and she’ll quit instantaneously” was not contextualized by the previous issues Klein had with the baseball program, Catalfo said.
Catalfo claims Town Administrator Todd Selig did not use due diligence to verify the validity of the claims before releasing the complaint publicly.
On Wednesday, Selig confirmed all communications with him in his capacity as a town administrator are subject to the state’s Right-to-Know law and can be requested by members of the public and the press.
Selig said lawyers for two other men accused of being complicit in the incident have also sent complaints to the town.
On June 12, John Ventura contacted Selig and said he would like to settle his client’s legal concerns privately.
On June 13, Melissa Burleigh contacted Selig regarding coach Robert Follis.
Burleigh also wanted to settle the matter privately with Durham officials.
Attorney Laura Spector-Morgan, representing the town, wrote back to Ventura and Burleigh on June 20 saying town officials would not settle with them by agreeing to their demands of $20,000 each.
Selig said town officials were planning to meet with ORYA leaders Wednesday night to create a strategy for moving forward.
The Town Council has not reinstated the $40,000 it withheld after Klein’s complaint was made public.